A program that replaces police officers with health care workers on mental health and substance abuse calls in Denveris showing signs of success, according to a six-month progress report. Despite responding to hundreds of calls, the workers made no arrests, the report said — and the city's police chief told CBS News on Friday that he believes the program "saves lives."
Under the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, health care workers are dispatched in lieu of police when responding to incidents involving issues with mental health, poverty, homelessness or substance abuse. STAR providers only respond to incidents in which there is no evidence of criminal activity, disturbance, weapons, threats, violence, injuries or "serious" medical needs.
During the first six months of the program, from June 1 to November 30, health professionals responded to 748 calls, including trespassing, welfare checks, narcotic incidents, and mental health episodes, according to the report. None of those cases required help from Denver police and no individuals were arrested.
Police chief Paul Pazen told CBS News that all of those calls were a success.
"That's 748 times fewer that the police department was called, meaning we can free up law enforcement to do what law enforcement is supposed to do, and really what law enforcement is good at, and that is addressing crime issues, violent crime, property crime and traffic safety," he said. "...You have a safer community and you have better outcomes for people in crisis."